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Location Scouting

Lesson 8 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

8. Location Scouting

Next Lesson: Resourcing a Team


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Artistic Vision and Inspiration


Personal Projects


Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Organizing Your Inspiration


Building A Character


Creating Wardrobe and Props


Location Scouting


Lesson Info

Location Scouting

The pictures I'm going to show you now are some location scouting that we did for our pre shoot, that you're going to be seeing in the next hour. Right, yeah. It's going to be fun. I think always when we look at locations we always pay attention to specific details. It's not just about how beautiful it is, because sometimes, as you know, if it's something beautiful in real life, it doesn't translate into a photograph. Yeah, and actually that was a challenge on this one. You know sometimes when you have too many options, like too many shoes and you don't know which one to go for? I don't know about that. (laughs) For you it's too many dongles. Yeah. Apple, we're talking about Apple here. (laughs) That's how I felt for this pre shoot. So you guys know that I don't really need a lot to make a good photo and I really love that challenge. This was like being in a candy factory or like a chocolate shop, and you could have everything you wanted. It was too much. It was too much, b...

ut it was good as well. It was a good lesson in being really analytical about what I was looking for and keeping in mind my vision. So we had a look at all these locations and there was more, imagine just like a field of flowers. So I had colors in mind, and that's the thing that was rooting me to my vision colors. So, I had two options for the location pre shoot scene that I wanted to create for you. The first was with this dress, which is a unicorn mermaid color dress. We were arguing about if it was more a unicorn or more of a mermaid. Even though she's wearing wings here, right? Right. Yeah, it's like a unicorn mermaid. So I have the colors of this dress in mind in case I saw colors on location that connected me to this dress, and I could see that working together. So, when I was at the lake I could see that there was a similarity in the colors there, but it wasn't going to work logistically because I don't think I could fit the model in the lake. (both laugh) I mean maybe back at home, but not here. Not safely, yeah. Not safely here. Yeah, you're going to get sued. I was thinking about that and this is my favorite location for this dress. Then I was like, "Guys, I'm sure we'll make it work. Have it sitting, the water in the background, it could work." But also, another thing you consider is you have to pay attention to details in terms of how specular the dress is versus the scene. Because sometimes when you look at a scene it's really matte and there's a lot of overcast, but maybe the detail in the dress is overpowering, it doesn't match. Yeah, so this dress is actually by a friend of mine, out in California, Firefly Path. She's really talented, and we're going to see it later today. But, the one, this is what I wanted to show you. So, this is a dress by Joe Fanning and I had this in mind, when we were location scouting too. Because I had two options, either the unicorn dress, or this fiery red one. And the moment I saw this bush, okay, you can imagine the passion, I was very excited! (laughter) I kid you not, sometimes we drive down the road, and this is in England usually. There's always a small little bush hidden away on the street, and she's like, "Did you see that bush?" I was like, "What bush?" And she's absolutely obsessed. She lives this 24/7. Yeah, you do, you have to obsess. Thing is though, I don't notice cars, and he's like, "Oh did you see that Ferrari?" Yeah, but that's more obvious you know? It's really not. I'm like, "It's just another car." (laughter) When the moment I saw this, I got excited cause I could see them working together. The colors of the dress, the shape of the flowers, the colors of the flowers, and I wasn't just looking at that. I was looking at the time of day. What time of day were we looking? Where would the sun be? I notice that this was in the shade, and the sun was actually coming behind. And that would be the time we were going to shoot as well. So I was keeping in mind the time of the day, location, being that this was actually very close to the bathrooms, the amenities. Very important. It is really important. Otherwise you would go in the bushes. Yes. For me as well whenever I'm location scouting because it's usually a very small team, a very intimate shoot. Me, the model, maybe a makeup and hair artist, being close to the car helps as well, so you can just haul things to and from easily. But the key thing as well was really the light, where was the sun going to be? Cause we were going to be using natural light. So the sun started out above her, over here, and that meant that when her face was turned, if, I put a girl in there, her face was turned this way, then the light would hit her beautifully. I was hoping that the sun wouldn't go behind her. But, I brought along a reflector just in case it did, cause I knew I'd have an assistant. Don't rely on that, right? I knew I'd have an assistant who could bounce that light back. Do you always have an assistant with you on set? That's a big thing. No, no I should. Yeah. It would make my life so much easier. I think we all need assistants. So it really goes to show that even though we do have that luxury, it's not really necessary all the time to have it. No, but that's why you pay attention, cause if I really wanted to shoot in that scene, and I didn't have an assistant, I would've just got there earlier and made sure I caught it when the sun was where I wanted it to be rather than wait. But does the position of the sun matter if it's overcast versus daylight? Yes, because even when it's overcast the light still is pretty directional, I think. I still feel a difference. So, I'm quite sensitive to it. I really do feel a difference, even if it's overcast. Even though it's diffused, the majority of the light is coming from a direction. So you do notice it. Another thing I noticed about this, which you will see when we are going through the location video, was the fact that she could slip into it easily. We are shooting in a park, so it is an arboretum, and you have to really respectful of the plants there. I can't get in there with my garden shears and chop things up and tidy it up. So we could part it. She could get in, and I could feel it. They say your gut feeling, your gut is your second brain, honestly it's true. My gut was telling me, "This is gonna work," and I was gonna go with it. I was gonna make it work. So I was being very stubborn. How to Plan But Stay Open to Creative Collaboration. This is like, things like when you are pulling a team together and stuff like that. Cause you may think that you got it all down, but be very open to evolving as well as an artist and working with other people. So, things to consider as well. Vision: How will you communicate your idea to a model or team, as well as the logistics, which I covered earlier, which was location, light, equipment, how much are you carrying stuff like that. And then have a Plan B in case your Plan A fails, in case it rained. So that was something that we actually-- We had to consider before Consider We had umbrellas, we had scribbs, we made sure that we had tarps as well in case the ground gets dirty, or wet, or muddy you can still shoot. Because half the time when you look at your photos, sometimes you're not showing the feet anyway. Yeah. You can get away with having coverage on the floor and everything like that. And just, I guess being aware of rain, cause the number of times I've actually stuck with the shoot and shot in the rain, oh my God. And you don't look down that much all the time when you shoot because you have rain boots as well. Yeah, we're photographers. We don't have to say gommers, except when you're in front of the show. Right. So, things that helps. Visualizing the shoot. So this is where my gut feeling came from. I could see it. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do, how it was gonna come together, but I could see it. I could feel it. Consider what is necessary for your final image. Color toning, quality of light, and again the reds. I was thinking about colors right from the very beginning. So the redder the flowers, the redder the dress, would that be too much red? What other color could I add in there to break that up and make that work better as a picture. I just think about it. I just let it cook, cook away right behind the scenes. Don't forget aside from just color, it relates to the balance of how dark to light the image is. Yes Because if you have an image that's predominately shadows, which I think a lot of your work is along mid tones and shadows, color gets to play a lot more freely within that photo when you're color toning. So sometimes when you see an image that's beautifully color toned, pay attention to how much detail there is in the shadows and highlights, if it's predominately lights, predominately shadows. Yeah, that's a really good point, yeah, true. Remind yourself to not be afraid of failing, Honey. I fail all the time. That's my life. It's true. Except with you, though. I succeeded there. I don't know how, mystery to all of us, but yeah, don't be afraid of failing, because how are you going to grow? Honestly, there are so many shoots that I've had. Those pictures won't see the light of day. I've actually had to message a model and a team and be like, "I'm really sorry it didn't work out." And I had to do that because I wasn't happy. I wasn't feeling it on the day. I wasn't feeling it with the location, and that's okay. I learned a lesson. I learned to be strong with my next shoot. But there's one thing though, how do you know when you've failed? Oh, that's interesting. I guess the define of failure to me, if the final photo doesn't come together. Sometimes I know I failed before that, though. When I've walked away, and I haven't walked away with something that I felt was good. I'm a very feeling person. You are, yeah, we know. There's also a balance though, because I feel like sometimes when you put work out there, you're not a hundred percent sure. Sometimes you're surprised how people react. Yes, that's true. There's a balance of being able to know when to let go verses when to feel like you're overbearing yourself. Because an artist, we always suffocate our own self before our pictures are out there. And these flowers don't blossom, right? Don't mind him. (laughter) It's just started, believe me, I'm going easy. Apologies (laughter) But actually you just raised a really good point, which is having another pair of eyes. So how many of you guys show your work to somebody else before you share it on line? You can raise your hand. Who shows it to other people? Yeah? And then you guys don't. You keep it to yourself and then share it. I would honestly say show it to somebody. See what somebody else says first. Before I had you, I had my best friend, Martha, and my friend John, and I would show them the pictures and I'd be like, "Hey, what do you think?" Because those two were very honest with me. If they didn't like it, they would just be like, " I don't know about that." and I'd be like, "Okay, that's fine. That's what I want to know." And that's another thing. Make sure they're honest, and they're not just yes people. And be open to what they say. They can be like, "Oh, I didn't really like that." you don't need to take it personally. "Tell me why? Why didn't you like that?" You say that to me now. Right. It's also good to, sometimes we put pictures out there and ask the audience and ask our friends, "What do you think? What would you take differently?" This one or this one? Exactly. And you get a lot of feed back that way. Never be scared of that. Yeah, so sometimes even before I edit, what will we do? We'll share a couple of selects if I'm struggling with the select to pick, I'll be like, "Guys, these pictures are really good, but I don't know which one's stronger. Which one do you like?" And so the audience will tell me. And that's okay, too. It's just a really fun way, as well, to engage with your audience. You can do that on Instagram as well. Real easily in the stories. And you know people are never scared to give their opinions on line. As we know. As you said. It's great. So, when it comes to making props, a few things that really helped me were craft blogs and videos, because it's just really fun as well. And you can learn everything on the internet. So you're here, then what's in here (laughter). Seriously, right? You can learn everything on the internet. Inspiration From Film. Tim Burton, Guillermo Del Toro, Tim Walker all of these guys are my absolute heroes. Their color toning, color toning is a passion really. Those color tones that they have unique to themselves are very evocative and inspiring to me. Don't Be Afraid to Start or Make Mistakes. Is there something that you can fix in post production. So in the case of me talking about that cape, the cape wasn't perfect. It was far from it, but in post production, I knew that I had enough knowledge to tidy it up, to build it up, and if it didn't work out no harm, no foul.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice PSD File - Sleeping Beauty
Pratik Naik Retouching Actions
The Royal Collection - Fine Art Actions
Practice PSD File - Location Shoot (~700mb)
Practice PSD File - In Studio Shoot (~1.3gb)

Ratings and Reviews


Great class and great instructors. Genuine and informative. Practical tips to create stunning images. Seeing them work through the process from shoot to finished image was great and I loved that they shared the thought processes behind the creative decisions. Definitely recommended!


Truly a remarkable duo. Bella is so down-to-earth and humble for a photographer with such a strong beautiful and ethereal voice. Her explanations of her process really inspired me--I was sketching concepts throughout the class. Pratik's process really opened my eyes to "smart" retouching--understanding what can be done in fewer brush strokes and slimmer PS files. All in all a really unique and inspiring class that makes me excited to realize my next conceptual shoot. They're also adorable together!

Mai Her

I've gained sooooo much from this I can't even contain my appreciation and excitement! So much inspiration and so much generous advice and tips to help me! Thank you so much Bella and Pratik and Creative Live!

Student Work